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Part of USS Dvorak (Archive): Storm in a Teacup and Bravo Fleet: The Stormbreaker Campaign

I got to give it up, I got to let it go

USS Nestus, Observation Lounge
January 2400
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Captain’s Personal Log, Supplemental.

 

Will this be the mission? Will this be enough?

 

Our anthropology team has made intrepid progress in gathering volunteers to participate in our ethnographic interviews. The survivors have responded well to the completion of short, quantitative surveys. The real craft of our science officers will be navigating the unstructured interviews. Gathering data through free-flowing conversations will create as many opportunities as difficulties for the research team. It can be more challenging to identify consistent, comparable data from which to draw defensible conclusions. For all their pitfalls, these interviews offer deep wellsprings of knowledge.  In my experience, that often points the way to insight or further avenues of research. I expect our broad base of questions will cover ground through the historical, economical, political, cultural, legal and social factors influencing our relief efforts to the Century Storm.

 

It’s equally important that we learn what the survivors actually want. Their priorities have to remain centred in any disaster management policy change to come from all of this. However… that won’t be the work of my crew. With the limited resources aboard Nestus, we gather the research, and then we hand it off to a starbase’s science team. That science team will dig into the data to find meaning, and hopefully purpose, while Nestus warps off to our next short-term assignment.

 

Given Starfleet’s faith in offering me this command, I have… expectations of my next starship command, perhaps a light cruiser or surveyor. I expect to seek out new perspectives, while in command of a science ship. This isn’t the first time I’ve led science departments; I’ve even lead the leaders of science departments before. It appears only logical to me, but I can’t always see myself through the admiralty’s eyes. Given how recently I completed my bridge officer training, after decades as an archaeologist and anthropologist, I suppose it might not be… unreasonable for Starfleet to view me as a glorified chief science officer aboard USS Nestus?

 

This one maybe not be enough.

 


 

“What could it mean? What does it mean that I survived?” Liahew asked aloud. When she spoke, a tremor crossed her face, seeped through her words. The greying of her hair marked her as living through her sixth decade, and her dark irises were unmistakably Betazoid. She didn’t spare a look at the man who was sitting opposite her at the conference table. Her eyes remained fixed on the observation lounge’s viewport. With Nestus landed on the surface of Haven, lake Vättern was visible through that viewport. Liahew asked, “Does that make me worthy? Did destiny pluck me from the ion storms?”

The man sitting across from her had introduce himself as Counselor Elegy Weld, from Starbase Four. Although he was a Starfleet officer assigned to the anthropology team, Elegy had made the choice not to wear his uniform during ethnographic interviews like this one. Rather, he wore a plaid jumpsuit in black and beige, with highlights of red criss-crossed through it. Having secured privacy in the observation lounge, Elegy intended to remove any perceptions of barriers between Liahew and himself. “What would it mean to you,” Elegy asked, “if you were right? What if the hand of fate did save you from the storms?”

Liahew’s smile had already been strained. When Elegy asked that question, the smile thinned under more tension. It collapsed into a downturn. “That,” she said, “would be horrendous. It means– it doesn’t mean anything to me, but what would that say about my family? If I survived Eldflaugar, I had a destiny. I survived, but my grandmother was lost to the Dominion. She didn’t make it through the battle of Betazed. After she survived the Mayam Canyon wildfires! As as child! But she was less than nothing to the Dominion. Torpedo fire was her destiny? That’s it?”

Elegy didn’t have an answer to that. In the pit of his stomach, he could imagine her pain, and he offered no pretense that he knew what would help her right now. He took notice that Liahew was still staring out the viewport and he took that moment to glance at his PADD. Elegy had been provided with a list of questions to ask, but the nature of an unstructured interview meant he was supposed to follow the curiosity of his interviewee, and tie in the prescribed questions where it was natural to do so. Deciding to ignore the questions for this moment, Elegy didn’t rush to fill the silence. He watched for Liahew’s breathing to settle, and then he asked, “What was your grandmother like?”

“Grannie was a firecracker,” Liahew said. She didn’t hesitate quite so much to answer that question, and the muscles in her face visibly relaxed. “In the Mayam canyons, she was raised in this commune with an ethos of no schedules, no rules. From a very young age, she was raised to value her own choice. She had to learn to choose when to cook and to sleep. If she didn’t, she went hungry or grew tired. But she got to decide. She was free to discover her own motivation to live as a member of community.”

In telling this remembrance, Liahew looked in Elegy’s direction a couple of times. He smiled at the fond memories she was sharing with him. Even after Liahew stopped speaking, Elegy didn’t say anything. He fostered a silence between them, offering Liahew time to reflect on what she said, and what else she might like to say.

“They understood the truths of life better, back then,” Liahew supposed. “Our bodies are brief glimmers. There’s no changing that; no matter how many hyposprays we put in our necks. Our livelihood relies on our physical environment, our social environment, the cosmos at large. It’s only through that interconnection we can thrive. My grannie talked about hope like it was a living, vibrant thing. She talked about hope like it was a bunnicorn. You have to wait for hope to reveal itself. It’s never missing; you just haven’t found it yet.”

Liahew sighed. She looked down in her lap, and she said, “I haven’t found it yet.”

 


 

“–but why did you become a counselor anyway?” Yuulik asked. She made little effort to hide the disdain in her voice. Psychology was a career Yuulik could respect; by comparison, counselors handed out mental health band-aids to weak Starfleet officers.

It was later in the day when Sootrah Yuulik asked Elegy Weld that question. They were sharing a coffee in the Nestus‘ dining room and their mugs had dipped from half-full to half-empty. Nominally, Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Yuulik was the chief science officer for this mission, but Yuulik had never worked with this crew before. Where she hailed from Starbase 72, Counselor Weld was on loan from Starbase Bravo. As the mission drew on, Yuulik wasn’t sure if she would mind very much if this first mission became her last. She had no one to impress –no one to compete with– but herself.

Elegy squared his shoulders and he opened his mouth to answer, but then he paused, appearing to think better of it. He scraped his teeth across his lower lip and he looked Yuulik in the eyes. Yuulik recognized that look. She saw the lawless candour that came so easily with a passing stranger. Elegy smirked, and he said, “Do you want the Starfleet answer or do you want–”

“From your heart, Counselor,” Yuulik said. Her tone was emphatic, granting him permission if that’s what he needed. “Life’s too long already. Only speak from your heart.”

Shifting in his seat, Elegy offered Yuulik his side profile, taking a protective posture as he leaned closer to the table in between them. “I trained as a counselor for the armour,” Elegy said.  “My mother is a sociopath,” he added, but he immediately slapped a hand over his mouth. His eyes widened and then he dropped his hand soon after. “She’s a wounded veteran of the Dominion War, I should say. I became a counselor so I could learn how to speak to her without being afraid.”

Yuulik didn’t know what to say to that, and so she said nothing.

Without any other prompting, Elegy said, “She’d get a look in her eye some nights, after a couple of drinks. Dad would be talking about his day, and she’d stare at a wall. She’d stare right at that wall, but she was seeing something else. …I can’t say I thought anything of it at the time. It was her way.” –Elegy took another sip– “Today, I saw that look in the eyes of one of my interviewees.”

“I’ve seen that look,” Yuulik interjected in solidarity. “Haunted. Like they’re scared to acknowledge something in their peripheral vision. In fact, I’ve seen that look in the eyes of Captain Taes. When I question her too forcefully, she hesitates.” –Yuulik tilted her head to the left– “Captains prefer giving orders. I’ve never found much use for orders…”

Elegy bit his lip. All he added to the conversation was a well-practiced, counselor’s, “Hmm.” The sound was non-committal and yet it invited Yuulik to say more.

Affecting a sympathetic tone, Yuulik said, “It would be natural for Captain Taes to be emotionally compromised by this mission. The disaster on the Eldflaugar colony emotionally maps onto Taes’ own trauma, except most of Eldflaugar’s colonists survived. Her homeworld, Nivoch, wasn’t so fortunate. Starfleet’s disaster response was even more primitive in Taes’ youth.”

“That’s a serious accusation,” Elegy said. His intonation was flat; his posture had taken on a formal manner. Yuulik categorized all of that as a theatre to hide the fear behind his eyes. He said, “You’re not qualified to make that assessment. I’d be barely qualified.”

Yuulik slumped back in her chair, exhausted at how seriously Elegy was taking this. She all but rolled her eyes at him. Shifting her tactic, Yuulik remained determined to win this debate. In her debate club at the academy, they had crowned her as Yuulik, the undefeated. “Fact: this is Captain Taes’ first command. Fact: she’s essentially a science officer like the rest of us. How can we be sure she can handle the stresses of this command? She’s a pretender in a red shirt.”

While Yuulik spoke, Elegy had similarly retreated his body against his chair-back. He looked like he would sink right into the chair if he could. “If Taes weren’t in command of this mission, who should be?” Elegy asked. He spoke slowly and then his question ended in an accusatory tone. “You?”

“Why not–” Yuulik starting to say, and then she spat out, “Wait!” She snatched the edge of the dining table and she hunched in close to Elegy. She snapped, “I just noticed something. You told me I made a ‘serious accusation’. You didn’t say I was wrong…”

“An emotional response doesn’t equate to emotionally compromised,” Elegy said hotly. It wasn’t immediately evident if he was defending the captain, or responding to ongoing stigmas surrounding counselors on starships. “I’d be more concerned if she was not struck with unpredictable emotions about rescuing people from a colony disaster.”

After gasping in delight, Yuulik declared, “You know something.”

“How could I?” Elegy said defensively. “I’ve barely met the woman.”

“You know something,” Yuulik said with even deeper certainty.

Shrugging helplessly, Elegy threw up his hands and he said, “Gossip. Gossip from an unreliable narrator. Gossip from the nurses’ station on Starbase Bravo.”

“You. Know. Something.”

“I told some of the nurses where I was going,” Elegy said. He spoke at a whisper. The words came out haltingly.  He paused after every couple of words, as if he might abandon the story at any time. “One of the nurses said she served with Captain Taes before.  I don’t know where. She might have been lying. Joking.”

“What did she say?” Yuulik asked, cutting through his prevarication.

“She said to steer the Captain away from kids. …From orphans, really,” Elegy said. The words still came out stiffly, like he was ashamed to be saying them aloud, and yet he sounded deeply relieved too. “She feared for how the Captain might react to seeing orphans. The nurse heard that, when everything went to hell on Nivoch, Taes’ parents ended their own lives to save food and water for her.”

Comments

  • HEY I KNOW THAT GUY! I guess I shouldn't be so surprised that gossip travels fast on such a small ship (despite Kellin's best efforts), but wow guys! Seriously though, I love the pattern you create by tying each new character to the last and connecting them all to the larger thread of Taes by once again absolutely FLOORING ME with the last paragraph.

    May 28, 2023